His dad died picking him up from golf. Then came U.S. Open Sunday and a putt

Justin Lower

Justin Lower on Thursday at the U.S. Open at PInehurst No. 2.

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PINEHURST, N.C. — Tim Lower probably would’ve said Justin Lower played well. But that would be just an introduction. A verbal handshake. Window dressing. 

Dad would’ve wanted more. 

“Could’ve been better,” Justin said.

“It’s what he’d normally say.”

How this Sunday would go has been a thought for a while. First U.S. Open. First major at the age of 35. First major final round after a 13-year career. On Father’s Day, 19 years after Tim and Justin’s younger brother, Chris, died in a car crash. They’d been coming to pick Justin up at a golf course. Dad watched a lot of tournaments. Justin eventually moved on, though. 

But then they turned a camera on and asked him about the “impact” of moving on to Pinehurst, shortly after qualifying, and things hit again.      

Lower demonstratively exhaled. Rubbed his eyes. 

The video went viral. 

“Yeah, it’s just kind of everything,” he said. “Yeah, it’s just [he exhaled again] — I told myself I wouldn’t do this, but, no, it’s just really cool. Obviously a lot later than I thought I’d play on, but no, it’s …”

What are the emotions you’re processing?

“I don’t really know,” Lower said. “Just happiness, I guess. Because the Sunday [he exhaled], the Sunday usually falls on Father’s Day, and I lost my dad when I was 15, so that would be, just to be able to play on that day in the U.S. Open would be really cool.”

Then Lower did. 

Thursday, during Round 1, he shot two-over 72. Friday, a 73. He made the cut on the button. There’d be a Saturday. And a Sunday. 

“I was grinding,” he said of the second round. “I didn’t have the best week. Yesterday, my trap kind of flared up again. I kind of get some pain on the way back. I was really happy the way I hit the ball coming down the stretch and I had some makeable putts. I wish I would have made a couple of them so I didn’t have to just rely on parring 18. Obviously was able to do it and make the cut. I was blessed, for sure.”

Saturday, Lower shot 74. 

On to Sunday. 

The moment hit early.

“Yeah, the first round, first tee shot, I got a little bit emotional thinking about it all,” Lower said. “And the first tee shot today. Yeah, it’s just … first Sunday tee shot at the U.S. Open. It’s pretty cool.” 

What was he thinking about?

“Just hit the fairway,” Lower said. “No, just hit the fairway and get off to a good start. I just wish my dad and my brother that they were here to see it. I mean, that’s almost 20 years ago, so it’s in the past. Still would’ve been nice to have them here.”

He bogeyed 2. He birdied 6, but bogeyed 7. 

But then he birdied 10. He was even.

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What if he shot par on Sunday?  

He bogeyed 15. He’d flown the green on the par-3 with his tee shot. 

On the 540-yard par-4 16th, after a 350-yard pop down the fairway, Lower hit to 43 feet.   

He made it. A bomb. A miracle. 


He finished that way. On 18, he hugged his caddie. 

And Lower started to assess. 

The day was good. He said his driving improved. But he’d wanted to shoot under par. The putt on 16 was good. But he groaned about missed opportunities. Overall, the week was good. He’ll remember most how difficult Pinehurst was.  

Like father, like son, right? 

Afterward, Lower was also asked this: 

The moment during qualifying, you mentioned your dad. What do you think he’d tell you after this week?

“Probably good week overall, but could’ve been better. It’s what he’d normally say.”

Only Lower gave him more. 

“I think he would have been happy the way I handled myself this week. Because I usually get pretty fired up throughout the week if I make mistakes and whatnot. But I told myself, it’s obviously going to be hard. Bogeys are going to happen. Bad shots are going to happen. Unlucky breaks are going to happen. Just accept it and move on. I wish I could be like that every week. I would be in a lot better shape. 

“Yeah, I think he’d be happy, for sure.”

Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.

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